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SHS’s 2018

It’s almost the end of 2018 and as many do, I’m reflecting on what the year has brought.

Probably the biggest change for me has been giving up drinking. I’ve been dancing around the edges of giving up my beloved wine and the occasional margarita and I managed to stop on April 1. A lot of my ability to do so can be credited to the sober women’s community that I’ve been following. In particular, I started to read a few blogs – Hip Sobriety – and Laura Mckowen and listen to their podcast, HOME. After one night of drinking AGAIN I listened to the relapse episode and it really resonated. It took me awhile to muster up the courage to stop but I finally did. Other than a day of drinking in late August, I haven’t had any alcohol since then. I owe them and the other women in the sober community a great debt.

I’m glad I don’t drink anymore. I watch friends joke about it and a good friend’s husband died from it, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I really want a glass of wine. As I’ve learned, society and popular culture is very influential and I feel a tug of regret when I’m watching a movie or show where the characters are drinking. Usually it’s a glass of wine, at home, in a beautiful setting, perfect lighting, beautiful glass. Some days I want to give in to the irritations or hardships that make up real life and plop on the couch with a glass of Chardonnay. So far, I have been able to redirect myself with a non-alcoholic option as I know all too well what drinking does to me. I am well versed in the sweaty, restless sleep and the dehydration and upset stomach of the next day. The headaches and numbness.The guilt and regret. The promises that it will be the last time. I don’t want to waste any more days. Too many people I know have health issues and would love to have all the days I have wasted feeling like crap after an evening of drinking.

I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs and biographies about drinking and recovery, all by women. This was really important to me in the early days of not drinking. I think I was searching for common ground, acknowledgement, and understanding and I found it. I read Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, Blackout: Remembering the things I drank to forget by Sarah Hepola, The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, My Fair Junkie by Amy Dresner, I’m just happy to be here by Janelle Hatchett and Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter. I also read Catra Corbett’s book (Reborn on the Run) which includes both ultrarunning and addiction issues.

I got something from all of these books, though some I liked more than others. All were different, varied in format and voice, and severity of impact that drinking had on their lives. A few of these were not relatable to me. My drinking didn’t escalate in the same way or lead to unemployment, jail or even to a formal stint in detox or recovery. This is not to say that I’m any better or had less of a problem; just that my experience was different. I found more information in other resources, blogs, webpages, and podcasts. Home podcast was key for me, and I also listened to episodes of Unruffled, Annie Grace, and more recently, the Edit Podcast where the focus is on grey area drinking which is where I think I fall on the spectrum. Less focused on drinking but still relevant is Rich Roll’s podcast.

Another major thing this year was that my therapist retired in March. I have been at a stable place for a while, and was seeing her twice a month, but it has been hard. Because my depression was so severe and the recovery so long, I felt the need to be proactive and find someone else to have in place in case of relapse. Despite feeling pretty stable, I attended an event in honor of my late father in late May and felt rather unmoored emotionally by the experience. This prompted me to find someone new but ultimately, I decided it wasn’t a good fit. I struggled with having to explain things again and didn’t feel like we quite clicked.

I’m still volunteering at the library but resigned from a leadership position that I had taken. I’m slowly trying to recognize unhealthy situations and that I don’t have to fix everything. I have taken two classes to explore creativity and surprisingly, didn’t like the one that had to do with writing! I’ve enjoyed the drawing class and will be back to it in January.

This year has once again brought grief and loss into my life. A friend of mine was diagnosed with colon cancer in March and she died in August. We used to celebrate birthdays with almond croissants and Christmas with peppermint mochas. After a few visits to her cabin in the foothills, she died shortly after a camping trip with her family. I miss her quite a bit. Another friend’s husband died rather suddenly from the effects of alcoholism and I’m doing my best to support her while trying to recognize my need to establish boundaries for my own protection.

I’m pleased that I’ve travelled some this year and done some unique things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t retired. We went to San Francisco for a Klimt Exhibit. I went to see Katy Perry and Pink in concert with my sister, and the Eagles and Zac Brown Band with my husband. (All of the concerts were enjoyed without alcohol!). We went to Kansas on my mom’s birthday in July (I know..HOT) and Tahoe a week later for my husband’s family reunion. We escaped the Sacramento heat and smoke in August for my birthday at the coast, and then did our first cruise to Alaska.

Exercise is still my love, mainly walking and hiking. I’ve added in cycling and did two formal events this year, the Chico Wildflower (30 miles) and the Foxy’s Fall Century (31 miles). I graduated to clip in pedals and promptly fell twice adding a few new scars to my legs. I still enjoy swimming and yoga twice a week has become my non-negotiable.
Like most of us, I continue to be searching, learning, and questioning. I’ve wondered often how well I know myself, after so many years being hard-wired to please others and do the “right thing.” It’s a bit horrifying to find myself with this question so late in life. There are still things I’d like to do and try, like spending a few days by myself, perhaps at a silent retreat, and go to Ireland. I’d like to kayak again. I’d like to meet more people who appreciate deeper conversation about books and ideas and kindness. And cats….because the girls have also been a big part of my world. Crazy cat lady, party of one.

Here’s to 2019. May yours be happy and healthy.

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Who is Self Help Sunday?

A little bit about me

 

I’m a mid-fifties northern Californian who retired in November 2015. I’ve always liked to write, but haven’t really written much creatively since 6th grade. Sixth grade was when I wrote a story in my AP English class and it garnered a bit of praise from the teacher. Writing that story was almost an out-of-body experience. I woke up with ideas and the writing process flowed.

I read that story recently, and I cringed just a bit. Well, I was only in 6th grade.

Writing has been part of my work life but has mainly been in the form of varying types of government communication: legislative and policy analysis, programmatic and fiscal guidance, and grants. I’m looking forward to just writing what I want and being myself – whoever that is.

Because I’m not always sure. I’m very fortunate to have retired at a young age and it sure beats working. However, it is a transition. I’m still in the process of figuring all of it out.

So this is one of the things I’ve wanted to do: start a blog. So here it is. #blogging101 #retirement #writing

Clippings

I’m a bit old school in some ways. I still like to read a newspaper though I augment it with daily news online. One of the things I noticed right off when we let our paper subscription lapse was that I didn’t do the daily word jumble and I didn’t clip out articles and comics.

That isn’t the worst thing – as I’ve just gone through the piles and stacks in my yoga room and tried to sort them, file them or throw them away. I haven’t gotten the hang of a system that I could file these electronically, and something seems lost to me if I don’t have the piece of newspaper to hold in my hands.

It’s a familiarity thing. My parents did this, and when I was at camp or at college, I often would get clippings, comics or articles from my parents in letters from them. Things they saw and thought I’d like. Something that I would find funny.

Yes, letters. That thing of the past that I am grateful I got to experience and now cherish. I have letters and notes from my parents that I can read again and look at their personal writing. I can see how they write “love” in their signature. I notice the change in their writing style and penmanship as they aged or went through their respective illnesses.

Messy, yes. Priceless, absolutely.

Do you still clip things out of the newspaper?

girl reading a newspaper

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

I won’t do this to you.

Meaning, I doubt I will write every day. Who knows. But the reason I say this is that I subscribe to a few blogs here, or rather “follow” them through WordPress and because I don’t want to have them all come to my regular email I have them sent to another folder.

And what that does is hide them. I forget to look, and then a bunch pile up especially by frequent bloggers, and then it is overwhelming. So don’t worry. I’m pretty inconsistent here and have about 3 people following me.

Whew. Had to get that out there.

I do hope to write more often. Because otherwise, it turns into a dissertation like yesterday and heaven knows, I hated grad school.

So I had a calm New Year’s eve, we watched a couple of forgettable movies and I drank my Fré sparking drink and went to bed at about 9. The highlight was face timing with my sister who is in New York. She got to see the ball drop from her hotel room. We are kind of dorks with this sort of thing (the face timing) so we were laughing at all of the filters. Yeah, late to the party.

Today I made the choice of spending time with my husband KT rather than doing something with a friend. Because I’m a bit of a people pleaser, it was hard for me to say no to the friend but did it. I’m glad. KT and I went for a walk, I got a couple of Redbox movies and found the Christmas blend Starbucks coffee on SALE. Two pound bags for $7!!! THAT never happens. And I just bought this same coffee for $10 a bag (ON SALE) before Christmas. It’s all in the timing.

I posted a list of all of the books I read in 2018 on Facebook and someone immediately corrected me because I had said 2019. It has been a bit of a thrill to have folks comment and share their reading lists. Have I mentioned I love books and reading?

I also did a bit of yoga. On my own, in my little room that will someday be a Pinterest worthy yoga/writing/self-care room. Right now, I have to shove piles of paper out of the way for my yoga mat and try to ignore the filthy carpet, but I’ve been trying to do this for several years and if I wait for perfect, it will never happen.

Happy New year. From me and mine to you and yours. — SHS

Any other readers or bargain shoppers?

Talbot’s is Timeless

It’s that time of the year. The time when I shift my clothes around. Technically, I have winter and summer clothes but the line between the two seasons is pretty slim. It doesn’t get very cold here so other than a few tank tops and shorts, a lot of things can be worn year round. Still, I make a point to go through things and move them from my closet to a trunk in the garage once it becomes winter. Which in California, means when the temperature drops to the mid 60’s.

Since I retired, I’ve been weeding out former work clothes as well. Let’s face it, I don’t dress like I used to – no need. My days prioritize a workout of some kind, then a house project or two. In the summer, I’ll wear some of the skirts I used to wear for work, but winter is mainly comfy pants (read: elastic waist) or leggings of some sort. Recently I found this awesome Old Navy leggings. I bought 3 pair and can’t wait to wear them this winter.

And despite the productive purge of the work wardrobe, I’ve held onto a few pieces. Most of the ones that are still with me are from Talbot’s. After my parents moved to the South in the mid-80’s, my mom would shop at Talbots for social events. I loved the wool suits, the velvet dresses for the holidays, the Christmas sweaters. When I began working, Mom would often give me a Talbot’s gift certificate for Christmas. The clothing was (and is!) rather expensive, but my sister and I would get up early the day after Christmas and hit the sale.  So the herringbone wool jacket and thin wale corduroy skirt that are now almost 25 years old remain in my possession.

The last time I got a Talbot’s gift card from my mom was in 2008. She had miraculously come out of the dementia that had taken hold of her in 2001, and was living at home with my dad. At Christmas that year, I woke up to a stocking filled with socks and earrings, even though I was well past the age of getting a visit from Santa. I also received a gift card from Talbots from mom; Dad made a point of telling me she insisted on shopping for it by herself. For the longest time, I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything with it and that gift card stayed in my wallet unused. It was the last thing my mom had gotten me all on her own and I didn’t want to let go of it. Not long after that Christmas, she became ill again and had to return to assisted living.

A few years ago, I went to Talbot’s with a good friend. She was shopping for work pants, and I found a wintry vest and another pullover – reminiscent of the happy pictures of snowy adventures that are a hallmark of the Talbot’s catalog. I used the gift card from Mom, for my purchases and also my friend’s. Mom would have wanted it that way. And those pieces of clothing will probably stay in my closet along with the others for many years. A reminder of the time my mom could still celebrate Christmas with me.

assorted clothes

(not Talbot’s; but the hangers are similar!)

“You will love it!” My first cruise

A review of my first cruise

That was the reaction when most people heard where we were going on vacation. Our first cruise.

For the longest time, a cruise was not something that had a lot of appeal to me. Being in the middle of the ocean with a LOT of other people we didn’t know; small places; no alone time- No thanks. You might pick up here that I’m a bit of an introvert and slightly claustrophobic.

I reconsidered it after my husband had the first of 9 stents placed in his arteries in 2014. An atypical heart patient, he has run 9 marathons and never smoked. We eat better than most people and he has never weighed more than 145 pounds.

But I have learned that there are lots of things in live that can’t be explained. This was one of them.

So we have adapted, by changing to a plant-based diet and adjusting travel plans. In 2016, we had gone to France for my cousin’s wedding and the next month he had a heart attack (he blames all of the cheese). Last year, I wanted to visit my uncle in Germany and he didn’t feel safe accompanying me. Having a heart scare when you are 40,000 feet over the ocean can be a bit of a problem.

So we decided we’d try a cruise. I wanted to go to Alaska to see the glaciers and the wildlife. I was also looking forward to cooler weather after a particularly hot summer in Sacramento. Working with a travel agent, we picked a cabin with a balcony on a higher deck so minimize the effects of motion sickness – another thing my husband is plagued with.

And….. It was a bit of a disappointment. The very things I was concerned about turned out to be issues for me. Lots of people everywhere. Eating meals was rather stressful as it was difficult to anticipate when the best time to go where there wouldn’t be crowds. Several times, we had to circle to area to find a table, swooping in as someone else was leaving.

There were also a lot of lines to go with the crowds. Lines to get on and off the ship. Lines to get on and off buses to go to excursions. And, of course, lines for food.

The food was overall pretty good. There was always a salad bar at lunch and dinner, and usually pasta and a taco bar. I had a hard time at breakfast as there was so much food that we don’t eat, including bacon and eggs. Lots of pastries which I love, but most were pretty average. We realized after one day that we could have room service as part of our fare, so we did that so we could have a quiet time to wake up.

rs 2

Another disappointment was the lack of wildlife seen on the excursions. The excursions are activities like whale watching and fishing, and we tried a couple of tamer ones. We took a bus to the Mendenhall Glacier and rode bikes in Skagway but both were overpriced for what we experienced. We saw one spout from a whale and one eagle.

But you can’t beat the beautiful views.

GB beautiful h20IMG_3217

WiFi is available only for a steep price on board so you are limited to information provided by the cruise. The ship had its own internet system, which was pretty limited in terms of usefulness. There was no real-time map of where we were going (hello! Google earth, people!) or the ability to learn about the area or the culture. I ultimately concluded that this was done intentionally, so to manage what information we received and gearing it towards the on-board cruise “experts” who gave periodic presentations in the main theatre.

So that last part was another thing I didn’t like. Always the selling. We went to a presentation on Levian Diamonds, and since I enjoy jewelry, we went. It was packed. Part of the draw was that there would be prizes and a free 1 carat sapphire. The prizes went to those who were close enough to the front for the presenter to hear their answers, and sapphire wasn’t free. The cost was a sales pitch for jewelry in the store before you could leave. I finally grabbed someone who was on their way out to see what the sapphire looked like. Nothing I wanted so we bailed.

So although I am very appreciative of getting to try this experience, I doubt we will cruise again. I could see how it would be a nice way to travel with family, and there were several groups on board that connected during meal time. For now, I am glad to be home in my own bed and enjoying our not-so-wildlife – our two cats. But I do sort of miss the room service – and the anticipation of what towel pet would await us along with the evening chocolates.

towel 2

#cruise #alaska #hollandamericaline #HAL

 

Bracing myself for Father’s Day. After Mother’s Day.

The holidays celebrating moms and dads are difficult when you’ve lost both of yours.

Note: I began writing this before Mother’s Day. Now it’s close to Father’s Day, another holiday I’m not thrilled about – because my Dad died on Father’s day 5 year ago. And whoopee, my mom died last year on the SAME DATE as my dad – June 16. So I’m going to go ahead and publish this, since I’m trying to be better about it.

Thanks for reading.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Ever since my Mom got sick (2001), I have dreaded this “holiday”. It’s never been a favorite, since I’m not technically a mom. I have two stepsons, but the relationship is not super close although I’ve known them since they were 5 and 8. They have a mom.

I have a mom, too but she died last year. She was gone in many ways well before that. Her behavior changed in about May of 2001 after a trip overseas with my dad. It’s strange what you recall, looking back. I remember her calling me right before she left and expressing some reluctance to go. She was never a big traveler. She had claustrophobia and agoraphobia with a hefty dose of anxiety mixed in. My dad’s position as a professor of surgery meant she had to participate in a lot of social events and travel, often serving as hostess. It was all really hard for her. The term “social anxiety” wasn’t around back then, but I’m sure she had that too.

About a week after the trip, my dad called me as I was getting ready to leave for a work trip. Mom had been hospitalized and from what I remember of the conversation, it was a little unclear exactly why. Apparently, she had been lighting cigarettes and trying to put them in drawers and in general, wasn’t making sense. She had been sleeping a lot, but that was normal for her as she also suffered from depression. I immediately called her at the hospital and talked to her. I think at first she thought I was her sister, who had died a year of two before. Then she talked to me for a few minutes and seemed fairly normal. I was crying and upset. I had long suspected that my dad would institutionalize her at some point. She had always struggled with various mental health issues and her inability to do the things he felt she should was a constant source of conflict between them.

Luckily, a friend convinced me to jump on a place and go out. The visit was a blur of hospital visits and time with my dad where we tried to untangle what was going on. While I was there, I discovered evidence that whatever was plaguing her had been going on for a while. A few months earlier during a holiday visit, I had noticed the mess and clutter but this time it seemed much worse. I found a bag of groceries in the garage that had never made it into the house or refrigerator. I answered a phone call from the insurance agent warning us that the car insurance was about to lapse. I found checks that had mom had started to write but never finished. While visiting her at the hospital, she was convinced that she was moving to Aspen to live with Robert Redford. You can laugh here; we did. She spoke of this with such confidence that my dad spent some time searching their home office files to see if indeed she had purchased some property out there.

Eventually she was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD)  “Eventually” meant that she was tested for anything and everything before this diagnosis emerged. I discovered that most people think dementia equals Alzheimer’s, and I would try to educate people before I tired of trying to explain it. Inevitably, the first question after stating her illness would be “does she know you”. I also got tired of answering that question, because it wasn’t that simple and I’m not sure why it matters to people.

She was 65 the year that she acquired her disease and that was the same year I turned 40. There were many years of mourning who she used to be and trying to grapple with her current state. I straddled roles of listener and supporter to my dad, and the role of acceptance and support for my mom. My own feelings of grief and loss were suppressed, emerging periodically around Mother’s Day, birthdays (hers and mine) and Christmas. I’ve found since her death, missing her and grieving hasn’t been any easier.

Recently, I was at an event where I caught up with her doctor, an expert in geriatric medicine. She said that she had come to the conclusion that we really don’t know much about the brain. And I think it’s true. There was a short period in 2007-08 when my mom seemed to recover. She began wearing makeup and jewelry suddenly and socializing with a person she had met in the facility where she lived. This person became a good friend to my mom and it was so sweet to see them laughing and giggling together. My mom was on a mission to come home, and when she did, the friendship lapsed.

Last year, she went on hospice in April and as I went to buy her a Mother’s Day card about this time last year, I hesitated. Usually I wouldn’t spend a lot of money on cards, as most of the time she wouldn’t open them. This year I did – I was cognizant that this might be the last year she would be around to send a card to. And it was. It’s a terrible thing to be thinking ahead of such things, but that was the reality. When we cleaned out her room, I kept that card.

I find it a bit puzzling/jarring when asked if I was close to my mom. I know this is a common thing to do. But though I wouldn’t define our relationship as close, especially when comparing it to others, it didn’t mean I didn’t love her. As one of my friends said, no one else is your mom.

Still missing mine.

light nature sky sunset

 

I’ll Take It

I’ll take all the rain, and all the crazy weather we’re having — we get a lot of the good sunshine so I’m just as happy to wake up to loud water beating down on the skylights. Especially since I don’t have to drive in it anymore!

I’ll take my 25 minutes of indoor cycling, which I squeezed in after picking up my car at the body shop. I didn’t exercise yesterday as I was being mindful of not pushing myself after being sick, so afterwards, I stopped at the gym.

This most recent car repair was body work that I’ve been putting off. I mean, there are lots of others things to spend a couple of thousands of dollars on. My car has had a really hard time of it. I bought it new in 2012, a Toyota Camry hybrid. In 2013, I was hit by my own car in a parking lot and the poor thing had $13,000 damage to it. I ended up n the neuro-trauma ICU with a brain bleed so we both got banged up. The first pic is my car in the parking lot. The woman in the SUV said she slipped and hit the gas instead of the brake…uh huh. The second picture is in the tow lot.

In 2014, someone sideswiped me or rather “end” swiped me running through a red light. Since I stopped at the light and they didn’t, I didn’t get any information on them. Then, I sideswiped a pole in the work garage.  Finally, my husband hit the right front bumper as he was entering the garage. So, there were a lot of dings and scrapes on it, and honestly, I got sick of people asking me  about the biggest dent, since it’s on the passenger side and folks assume it just happened.

I’ll take having my car back! I get antsy not having the freedom of my own car and I realize how privileged this is. I could use my husband’s whenever, but not having my own ride made me feel penned in.

And I’ll take a little weird thing that happened. I stopped at the library after the gym, just to stop in quickly to drop off some things. Well, it’s never a quick stop because the book store always needs help as people graciously donate a lot. So I spent time sorting and shelving and found a surgery text from the 1970’s. I recognized it and the author, someone my dad trained under in San Francisco, and sure enough, my dad was the author of two chapters.

How weird is that. It has bothered me that I never have dreams or feelings or experiences where I feel my dad is close or watching. But this kind of feels like it. So I’ll take it.

dad work